twenty ten

I wanted to write a great post about the unfortunate mandate American society has imposed on us all with the whole Santa Claus thing, how it’s worse than religion in that even the schools are in on the lie — until I realized it was much more complex than that, a whole mess of ethics vs. social pressure and that my viewing it as an “unfortunate mandate” was a measure of my ethical mettle (and as measures go, one that fell far short of the standards I wish to keep (but apparently don’t)). My excuse, if I were to offer one, is that the Santa mythology is generally harmless, and wears off when a child reaches a certain age, so there is good reason not to break with social traditions simply to gain bragging rights to that kind of relentless honesty when it meant inflicting such conflicts on a child. Children have enough opportunities to feel ostracized by their peers without being the only one not in on the lie.And if I’d managed to make sense of all that, I’d have needed a conclusion, and I don’t have one.

But there wasn’t time.

Then I had this clever thought of making a top ten list of the top ten top ten lists of the decade, but … no time. And I only found four lists, and they’re bookmarked on two different computers because I’m deficient in the bookmark-organizing area of geekery. The shame. But even if I wasn’t deficient, still … time.

I should be working right now, right this minute – and if not, I should at least be actually blogging and not this. Time not a factor in this, just … tired, in a wide-awake kind of way, and then there’s the ennui. You could count the sick days I have taken in the past four years on one hand, and this year I took one vacation day to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the last time I took a vacation day (well, bereavement leave, same thing). I like to think of this as a work ethic, but it’s not that fucking noble, not when it leaves me all whiny like this. I therefore resolve to use some of my by now quite nice pile of vacation days this year. But that’s all I’ll resolve. I’d like to make some lofty promises about this blog, but I’d hate to break them.

It’s just that I have the best intentions for this new godlizard thing here, and in case anyone’s listening, I wanted you to know. About the intentions. The rest of it, meh.


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fantastically busy

In the remote chance that anyone is wondering, I have not abandoned my brand-new blog. It’s just that I have a more-than-full-time job, and in addition to that I took on a rather overwhelming side project this month which has given me the opportunity to indulge ridiculously materialistic and joyously excessive outburst of seasonal gift-giving, and so I’m working 10 hour days and 5 hour nights and 20 hour weekends. In order to accomplish this, I have had to pare down my daily activities to working, sleeping, and the occasional tweet.

I will take a moment to worry about people getting the impression of me that I value buying things and stuff over … you know, getting more than 5 hours sleep a night or taking time to smell the coffee or roses or whatever. But anyone that says money doesn’t buy happiness should spend a few decades without anywhere near enough of it, and then finally have the ability to lavish iPods and XBoxen and bicycles and big, flat teevees on loved ones — trust me, it’s wonderful. If you still think money can’t buy happiness, you’re doing it wrong. Here, give me yours, I’ll demonstrate.

Not that that makes this easy — to give you an idea of the extent of the self-discipline this involves, I have in my possession right now a brand-new copy of Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness, and I am not even letting myself take the time to read it. Not even a little. Well, maybe the foreword. But that’s it. So I will be back as soon as I launch a couple of websites :) Another week or so …

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Quaker group stops certifying marriages until gay marriage legal

A Minnesota group of Quakers, or as they call themselves, the Society of Friends, has joined a handful of other groups nationwide in refusing to sign marriage certificates for opposite sex couples.

“We’re simply trying to be consistent with the will of God as we perceive it,” said Paul Landskroener, clerk of the Twin Cities Friends Meeting, in an interview with MPR’s All Things Considered on Monday.

The congregation will continue to hold both opposite-sex and same-sex weddings at its meeting house, but will no longer sign the legal marriage certificate for opposite-sex couples. Instead, couples will need to have the certificate signed by a justice of the peace.

“Everything else proceeds as it normally has, except that we will not sign the marriage certificate,” Landskroener said.

Unlike many churches, Quakers do not have ordained ministers. Couples are married by appearing before the congregation and speaking their vows to each other. Several witnesses then sign the marriage certificate to pronounce the couple legally married. [source]

The god of their understanding sounds like a lovely fellow, I wish more gods would adopt that sort of fair and loving view of things.

h/t Pam’s House Blend

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goodness without god: a struggle with logic

In the Baltimore Sun’s “In Good Faith” blog, Dr. Chris A. Brammer makes some interestingly nonsensical statements with regard to whether or not people can be good without god:

I would first need to ask, does anyone really know a million people, let alone know them all well enough to know that they are good people? We are not saying that they don’t do good things, but are they good people without God? Many good things have been done for selfish, self-serving, self-centered motives. These motives would certainly discredit any person’s good deeds from contributing to a reputation of being a good person; actually this person could be considered wicked — for the religious or non-religious thinking person.

First of all, you don’t have to know millions of people to know that millions of people are confirmed atheists, and that, statistically, they have remarkably low rates of criminal convictions, higher education levels, lower divorce rates, etc. He then goes on to explain the trouble the reader might have understanding why it’s not necessarily good when these unusually fortunate individuals do good: those deeds may just be self-serving (and good deeds so often are, aren’t they?), so the people who do them are still wicked. He does not make any judgment on good deeds done by people who believe they are saving themselves from eternity in a fiery pit, because that’s not self-serving at all. And just in case being good without god might actually refer to deeds done with purely altruistic motives by godless heathens, Pastor Brammer goes on:

The non-religious person’s view of goodness without God in no way eliminates the existence of, and the need for God. Their belief simply means that they choose not to deal with the possible reality that his or her goodness is not solely theirs after all.

So there you have it – people who do good deeds but fail to believe in his god are either wicked and self-serving, or simply unaware the presence of god in their lives. There, that wraps up all the possibilities.

I’d love to do a better job pointing out the logical fallacies in Dr. Brammer’s statements, but it’s been a very long day, and this level of arrogance and narrow-mindedness makes my head hurt.

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good news roundup

In the interest of peace on earth and goodwill toward everyone, I present to you four separate instances of religious people and atheists behaving decently toward one another:

In St. Helena, a devout Christian and an atheist met for the first time, talked nonstop over breakfast about their respective beliefs or lack thereof, and decided they had no reason to dislike one another:

Our views had almost nothing in common. We did not even agree on the nature of what is real. We did agree that there was no reason for ill will between us.

In Denver, sheriff Jim Alderden (aka, Balloon Boy Sheriff), invited some atheists to his annual “Politically Incorrect Christmas Party.”

Alderden invited two atheist groups to participate after they wrote him asking that he stop the display. He says he wants to be inclusive and told them he had a “big, empty spot for the atheists” at Saturday’s party.

The Colorado Coalition of Reason will erect a sign urging people to illuminate their minds with reason during the winter-solstice season.

In Baltimore, the Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton declared that atheists are no threat to religious leaders:

“As a follower of Christ, I would love for everyone to not only experience this yearning but to also know the creator who imbued us with it,” O’Brien said. “But, being part of a free, pluralistic society is living in community with people who have different faith commitments or no faith commitment at all and to work together to find common ground in working toward the common good.”

Independent Catholic News posted a fair and factual account of the recent intelligence² debate between Richard Dawkins, A C Grayling, Richard Harries and Charles Moore. Before the debate, 334 attendees voted in favor of the motion, with 675 against and 389 undecided. Afterward, 363 voted in favor of the motion, with 1070 against it and 85 undecided. One might find the ICN’s assertion that “While Harries and Moore lost the debate, they managed to persuade a good number of undecided attendees” to be a bit of a stretch — however upon further consideration and after watching the videos, an increase of 29 probably was a good number, all things considered.

See? We really can all just get along.

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